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By: Dr. Subrata Das E-mail: drsubratadas2000@gmail.

com Introduction Bangladesh has emerged as a key player in RMG (Ready Made Garment) sector since 1978. Textiles and clothing account for about 85% of total export earnings of Bangladesh. Out of which, 76% comes from the apparel sector which covers the major products of knit and woven shirts, blouses, trousers, skirts, shorts, jackets, sweaters, sports wears and many more casual and fashion items. The sector currently employs approximately 1.5 million workers, mostly females from underprivileged social classes. The pivotal factor in the apparel industry is the workforce i.e. the sewing operators, the helpers, cutting masters, pattern makers, finishers etc.. Bangladesh is endowed with abundant and cheap labour force that is easily trainable and convertible into semi-skilled and skilled workforce. Existence of such category is one of the advantages that Bangladesh will be enjoying over a considerable period in the context of international trade on clothing. Quality of goods exported from Bangladesh has always been questioned by the foreign buyers due to lack of experience and awareness of Garment manufacturers associated in the trade. In order to export readymade garments, it is not only the quality parameters which are important towards acceptance of the product as per the intended end use, but also the working environment in which the garments are to be produced, is equally important so that sweatshop concept is totally taken care of and the code of conduct must be stretched towards achieving the objectives of social compliance issues. The core areas of social accountability are, basically, based on the principles of international human rights, local culture and tradition. The prime objective of the system is to protect the human rights in readymade garment industries. Thus, Bangladesh has a stiff challenge ahead to meet the demand of world market. In this paper some of the essential elements of social accountability pertaining to the apparel sector of Bangladesh have been highlighted. Social Accountability: In today�s fast changing global market, it is not only the quality of garments which cherished the retailers and manufacturers but also the working environments of the organization wherein the products were produced. Those are equally important to gain and strengthen consumer confidence and to build-up more reliable relationships with vendors. In other words, specific code of conduct that protects the basic human rights of the workforce engaged in the trade is to be respected to satisfy consumers and to add social value to the product. Basic awareness of the social accountability helps to understand and monitor the compliance part of it in protecting the image of a particular brand of product. In order to do so, the reputed and leading market players in the garment trade have imposed compulsion on the related factories to achieve those objectives as a condition of the export contract. Even the exports were either withheld or cancelled elsewhere in the event of non-compliance to such issues.

Employee�s Interview 5. The introduction of rights of free association and collective bargaining is guided by the political environment. 9. Document Review (payroll. Suggested corrective actions in typical cases are also indicated. Some of the non-compliance issues have also been photographed as shown in Plate no 1 to 6. By keeping in mind the complex scenario. 7. age documentation etc. 2. 5. For instance. The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) and Business for Social Responsibility (BSR). local culture and regulation of Govt. the maturity level of workforce and above all the basic training of the management of the organization. limit of working hours and compensation for extra work may not be the same for all geographical zones in the globe. Reputed brand buyers in large supply chain have taken the guideline from those organizations and formulated their own standard of COC and also the acceptance criteria. Worldwide Responsible Apparel production (WRAP) . Highlights of typical findings in different aspects of social accountability are described below. Minimum basic wage also depends on the economic situation of a particular country in question. personal file. 3. . can not be overlooked. Closing meeting with factory management (discussed audit findings and recommended necessary improvements). several case studies in Bangladesh have been made with respect to the information obtained through actual social compliance audits performed by leading auditors of internationally well-known consumer products service companies.) 4. 6. Council on Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency (CEPAA). 8.Code of Conduct (COC) Social Accountability standards have been developed by the international organizations such as Fair Labor Association (FLA). The basic principles of COC have been derived from the principles of international human rights norms as delineated in International Labour Organization Conventions. Social compliance audits conducted as per the COC of different brand buyers of USA and Europe were basically based on the following steps: 1. This is to understand the actual scenario of social compliance in different RMG factories in Bangladesh. time card. Factory Tour (observed working condition) 3. the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It has nine core areas to be addressed upon. Child labour Forced labour Health and safety Compensation Working hours Discrimination Discipline Free association and collective bargaining Management systems While following the above criteria is compulsory for satisfying COC. These are as follows: 1. Opening meeting with the factory management (informed the scope of audit) 2. 4.

any person who has not completed sixteen years of age is defined as a child. but sporadic cases still exist due to economic reason. Disciplinary Practices: Violation: Overtime wages of the workers were deducted as a means of punishment if they could not achieve the daily production target. Forced Labour: No such cases were found wherein there was use of forced labour in the factories. Corrective Action: To comply with social accountability standard. recruitment shall not be biased towards avoiding local candidate at the time of recruitment. Violation: In one of the factories in Chittagong. . Thus. Factory management agreed to take care of this matter. but also due to fear of post scenario of a disciplinary case. Bangladesh working for a reputed brand of USA. mental or physical coercion. To comply with The Payments of Wages Act of Bangladesh. 1936 of Bangladesh. all working hours shall be recorded in the time card. Corrective Action: To comply with The Payment of Wages Rules. Direct evidence which indicates personnel shall require to lodge �deposits� or identity papers upon commencing employment with the company was also not available. if fail to attend weekend work. physical torture was reported for simple mistakes including no payment of wage.m. 1937. it was understood that one worker was about 13 years old. Article 66 prohibits the employment of any children under the age of fourteen. Violation: Employees punched their time cards two hours earlier (7 p. wages shall be paid by 7th of the next month up to 1000 workers. there is discrimination in hiring workforce. Corrective Action: The factories shall not engage in or support the use of corporal punishment. Wages shall not be deducted as a form of punishment. From the workers interview. Violation: Employees.Management Systems: Violation: Factory paid wages in installment throughout a month instead of disbursing the payment within particular period of the next month. and verbal abuse. This is not only to avoid local protests against working condition. Most child labourers have been cleared out of Bangladesh�s RMG sector under international pressure. Factory management wanted to hide the actual working hours. Discrimination: Violation: Factory management is reluctant to recruit employees from the area where the factory is situated. It was confirmed from the verification of personal document and the appearance of the employee. Child Labour: Violation: Child labour was found at the factory.) than the actual time of departure (9 p. Corrective Action: This is considered as a delayed payment.m. were deliberately made absent for 2 to 3 days from his working period. . Corrective Action: According to The Factory Act of 1968 in the Bangladesh Labour Code.) from the factory.

Corrective Action: Factory. Corrective Action: Factory shall prepare and post evacuation plan at different areas of the factory to facilitate smooth evacuation in the case of emergency. Violation: Number of toilets in the production floor are not sufficient to cover all the employees. Area in front of fire extinguishers shall be marked on the ground with yellow lines to indicate that the area must be kept clear at all times. in accordance with The Factories Act in Bangladesh. Violation: Primary/secondary aisles were found blocked by fabric roll. Corrective Action: As per The Factories Act. Violation: No evacuation plan was observed throughout the factory. They must be motivated through training to use such protective equipment for safety. Corrective Action: Factory shall construct sufficient number of toilets in accordance with The Factories Act. 1965. factory shall place drinking water closets at a minimum of 20 feet distance from the toilets. Violation: Fire extinguishers were found blocked in some areas of the factory and were not easily accessible. Chapter � 3 and 4 of Bangladesh. shall make sure that all the passages and control panels remain unblocked at all times. Violation: No soap and towels were there inside all the toilets in a factory. garments etc. . 1965. 1965 of Bangladesh.3 and 4. Corrective Action: All fire extinguishers shall be cleared from obstruction at all time. cartons. in different sections of the factory. Electrical control panel was also found blocked. Corrective Action: Factory shall put marking on the floor with yellow lines to indicate the evacuation paths. Corrective Action: In order to comply with The Factories Act. Corrective action: Factory management shall supply metal hand gloves to the operators and motivate them to use such protective equipment for safety. Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining: Violation: Employees were not permitted to bargain collectively about their requirements. Chapter. Violation: No protective hand gloves were in use by the fabric cutting knife operators which might cause serious accident at any time. Corrective Action: Soaps and towels are to be provided at all the toilets in the factory. Violation: Drinking water closets were found very near (2-3 feet) to the toilets.Health & Safety: Violation: Workers did not use gloves and/or masks while handling chemicals and dyes in chemical storage area of Dyeing Department. Violation: Aisles were not marked at different sections of the factory. management shall provide adequate gloves and/or masks to the appropriate workers.

Concluding Remarks: Economists identified high lead time. only with a view to comply with The Factories Act. Laws are there in the papers but its implementation is not always felt while looking at it from the micro level right on the ground. as enterprises need to import raw materials and face an unnecessary delay due to bureaucratic �Red Tape�. to 12 a.m. it is regarded as a constructive effort to fulfill the requirement of freedom of association and collective bargaining. duration of producing apparels take comparatively more time. The duration of 60 hours per week shall be represented as 48 hours general duty plus 12 hours overtime as per the local law of Bangladesh. It is worthwhile to mention that the workers engaged in the factories inside Export Processing Zones in Bangladesh enjoy better working environment than the workers outside the Export Processing Zones. Violation: Female workers were working from 8 a. Chapter-6. as overtime. Bangladesh. iii) Overtime calculation. Corrective Action: Factory shall record all worked hours in payroll sheets and time cards and shall compensate those correctly. sluggishness of customs . This is to satisfy The Payment of Wage Rules. Corrective Action: Factory shall follow legal requirement for overtime compensation.m. less productivity comparing to other competing nations despite relatively low wages and infrastructure bottleneck as the major impediments for garment industries in Bangladesh. Such accidents seriously tarnish the image of Bangladesh and could cause buyers to turn to countries where tragedies of this type are less likely or are hidden from the international press. iv) Off day in a week and v) Yearly increment. This has attracted many foreign investors in the zone wherein Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (BEPZA) has recently adopted a policy to safeguard the legitimate rights of workers by the formation of Workers Welfare Committee (WWC) at each enterprise. Compensation and Working Hours: Violation: Weekend and overnight worked hours were not recorded in the time cards and payroll sheets and also not compensated properly.m. In the absence of adequate number of backward linkage industries. the majority of garment workers remain deprived of their legal rights. ii) Working hours. 1965. 1937 of Bangladesh. to 8 p. In spite of the promulgation of laws by the Government. Violation: Overtime worked hours had exceeded the legal limits of stipulated hours per month with a large margin. Corrective Action: Factory shall allow female workers to work between 7 a. in the context of prohibition of trade union as per BEPZA Act.m. Current level of maintenance of compliance with hygiene and safety standards is not adequate and the reported tragedies like the incidence of fire in the garment industry support the fact to a certain degree. Some of the issues which still remain neglected are: i) Minimum basic salary. Corrective Action: Factory shall not allow anyone to work more than 10 hours per day and 60 hours per week.Corrective Action: All employees shall be permitted to bargain collectively about their rights. In fact. which is double of the basic pay. Violation: Factory did not comply with the local law of Bangladesh in the payment of overtime wages for all the workers in the factory.

Brand buyers often argue that producing garments in countries which are just beginning to industrialize is �a painful process�. but this arrangement. making and trimming) charges in recent months by the buyers has resulted in additional expenditure towards overhead cost for the factory owners. is ineffective in both the short and long term in international business. It is desired that factories should pay higher wages and provide more welfare oriented services to the workers.formalities and the loading and unloading of ships. . which ignores the workers� basic right. In order to shorten these periods. But the abrupt reduction of CMT (cutting. the buyers also need to consider that the rate at which they place their orders should commensurate with the cost involvement to match with the desired compliance level. Thus. the garment manufacturers tend to force their workers into lengthy working hours when a large order comes in. but in reality some readjustments are also to be required on the part of such buyers as well.

Laboratory Management Systems and Excellence in Retail Store Operations. He is in the panel of referees of Indian Journal of Fibre and Textile Research.D (1997) and M.Tech (1986) from the Textile Technology Department of I. Dr Das has recently been empanelled as NABL assessor in Laboratory audit as per ISO/IEC 17025. Subrata Das has done his Ph.I. Das has been abroad several times and has received special training in Social Accountability. He has around 75 publications in reputed national and international textile journals to his credit and has presented 20 technical papers in various national and international conferences. Inc.T. He has around two decades of work experience in Shop floor.Delhi after the successful completion of B. He has performed more than 100 audits in Bangladesh as a lead auditor in Social Compliance for reputed garment buyers throughout the globe.About the author: Dr. Subrata Das Head Consumer Testing Laboratories (India) Limited. Bangalore. . Dr. Dr. Quality Assurance and Teaching. Das is currently heading the Consumer Testing Laboratories (India) Limited. Dr. Inc.. Research & Development.Sc(Tech) in Textile Technology(1983) from Calcutta University.